SALT LAKE CITY — Recent changes by the Utah Transit Authority meant to improve mass transit along the Wasatch Front may leave some travelers stranded.
This week, UTA launched FrontRunner South commuter rail between Salt Lake City and Provo. The much-anticipated move was the agency’s latest effort to expand and enhance mass transit between Salt Lake and Utah counties.
The first weekday operation of FrontRunner South was not without its challenges, as riders experienced lengthy delays and missed connections. UTA received thousands of complaints from irate patrons this week regarding the scheduling issues.
Since Monday, train and bus connections have been refined resulting in fewer delays and complaints. However, some weekend bus riders may be getting a bit more exercise than they bargained for in the wake of changes made.
Salt Lake County resident Stuart Merrill rides the number 811 bus into Utah County on Sundays. Before the implementation of FrontRunner South, the bus ran its normal route to the Mt. Timpanogos Transit Center located at 1145 S. 750 East in Orem, then eventually ending in Provo. Currently, the route stops at 1200 S. 400 West in Orem, about 12 blocks from the transit center.
Merrill said there are no connecting buses at the new stop, so people needing to transfer to another bus would be required to navigate the 12 blocks to the hub on their own if they want to continue traveling in Orem or on to Provo.
He said when he contacted UTA to ask why bus 811 did not at least terminate at the transit center where connections could be made, he was told that there was not enough money in the budget to pay for the extended service.
The agency has typically scheduled limited bus service on Sunday due to lower demand, according to UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter. However, service on every other day provides regular connections that make reaching the Mt. Timpanogos Transit Center easier, he said.
Carpenter acknowledged that ending the 811 bus route so far away from the transit hub would be an inconvenience, but budgetary constraints do not currently allow for extending the route on Sunday.
“We no longer have a route that serves farther into Orem or Provo,” Carpenter said. “It definitely would be a challenge for someone who had been using it that way in the past.”
He said the recession caused a decrease in revenues and financial resources, which has resulted in the difficult decision to cut bus service in some areas to expand rail service.
“We looked at the feedback we received (during the) public comment process and ultimately decided on the service scenario that we are operating today,” Carpenter said. “We have to make hard choices sometimes, and in this case the decision was made to shorten the number 811 (route).
The Northbound Green Line TRAX began stopping and turning around heading southbound at the Arena Station this week in anticipation of the Airport Line, which opens April 14. Passengers who need to travel north beyond Arena should take Blue Line trains, which reach Salt Lake Central before turning around.